Thursday, November 09, 2006

Self Censorship

Ninety-nine percent of the time I write exactly what I want to write. But last night I started thinking about the other one percent. I was reading some sexually graphic horror stories by a friend of mine, and the thought occurred to me that I wouldn't feel "free" to write quite that graphically. I wouldn't because 1) I teach at a Catholic University and I don't think the institution's chief academic officers would be very happy about my choice of subjects, 2) I'd be deathly afraid my 90 year old mother would somehow find out and have a heart attack, and 3) I wouldn't want my 19 year old son to read them and start to wonder about his father. Someone might tell me to use a pseudonym, but pseudonym's are never forever. Someone else might tell me that I worry needlessly, and oftentimes I'm sure they are right. But I'm a nervous sort of person and I can't change that after all these years.

In other words, I occasionally censor myself. Francis Bacon supposedly said that: "He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief." I believe this quote to be true, although perhaps Bacon should have added "parents" and "career" to wife and children.

Sometimes I hear people say that art is about never compromising. But life itself is a compromise; it always involves trade-offs. Maybe the greatest writers do bleed absolutely true on the page; maybe that's why they're great. But I'm not among their number. I'm just thankful that ninety-nine percent of the time I want to write the kind of stuff that won't get me into trouble. At least not too much trouble.

3 comments:

Stewart Sternberg said...

I don't look at this as censorship. I think we look at the violence level and sex levels in our stories and make a determination whether or not the inclusion of such scenes are germaine to the narrative.

I've never been one for splatter punk gore. I like getting inside someone's head and catching them unawares, not with shock content, but with something that touches them at a deeper level.

Speaking of which...I've just put in an order for your book. If we all get together at some future point, I am going to have to have that autographed.

By the way..how about joining in the writing assignment for the week. It's called SEDUCTION.

Charles Gramlich said...

Thanks for ordering Cold in the Light. Let me know what you think. There is some graphic violence in it but I think it is in the service of the story and not gratutious. I saw your post about "Seduction." I'll see what I can do.

cs harris said...

An interesting thought, Charles. I realize that I censor myself all the time, worrying about what my mother, my children, people who know me will think. I also censor myself in another way: I know that certain attitudes or beliefs are not popular in this country, so I avoid them in my writing. That's a lot of self-censorship!